In the second part of RN's special on consolidation in the wholesale and symbol market, Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski looks at the timeline of the industry's ups and downs
• Booker and Tesco announce a merger. Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis tells the London Stock Exchange the move will “help independent retailers, caterers and small businesses by further improving choice, price and service”.
• Palmer & Harvey announces a new refinancing deal with creditors JTI and Imperial. The announcement comes after Tesco agrees to continue its distribution with the firm.
• At its annual tradeshow, Pro-retail, P&H managing director Martyn Ward refuses to answer any questions from journalists about the firm’s troubled financial situation.
• At the end of the month, the Competition and Markets Authority opens its report into the Tesco-Booker deal.
• The Co-op emerges as the most likely suitor in a bid to acquire Nisa. Rumours at the time suggest supermarket group Sainsbury’s was also in the running.
• In a further example of supermarkets moving into the wholesale supply chain, Morrisons signs an agreement to supply the entire McColl’s estate. This includes 1,500 convenience stores and 350 newsagents.
• Palmer & Harvey collapses. In total, 90,000 stores are supplied by the company and distribution is thrown into chaos. The industry – including Bestway, Today’s, Landmark and Booker – unite to plug the gap in supply.
• Nisa members, meanwhile, vote by a margin of three to one in favour of a proposed takeover from the Co-op.
• Costcutter also announces a tie-in with the Co-op. Boss Darcy Willson-Rymer says he hopes the supply deal with “put to bed” the availability issues that had occurred due to its reliance on the ailing P&H.
• Following a set of seemingly strong financial results, Conviviality purchases P&H chain Central Convenience. It is just the latest in a series of acquisitions by the firm including drinks wholesaler Matthew Clarke and events organisers Peppermint.
• The Tesco-Booker deal is given the ‘final okay’ by the CMA.
• In an update, Palmer & Harvey’s administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers reveal the company collapsed with £453m to suppliers. This included £17.4m to Coca-Cola European Partners and nearly £70m to JTI and Imperial.
• Tesco-Booker deal is finalised.
• On 14 March, Conviviality announces the surprise decision to cancel its dividends to shareholders as it reveals a surprise £30m tax bill must be paid by the end of the month. An “arithmetic error” had also been blamed for a drop in its profit forecast and six days after the tax bill had been revealed, chief executive Diane Hunter resigns from Conviviality with immediate effect. The company ends the month in search of administrators.
• Blakemore, meanwhile, announces it is putting its wholesale division up for sale, including 12 depots nationwide. As RN goes to print, it remains unsold.
• In a further setback for independent retailers, delivered chilled wholesaler KerryFresh collapses. Highlighting the interlinked nature of the market, one contributing factor in the company’s demise is reportedly the delay in its insurance claim for losses following the collapse of P&H.
• Bestway Wholesale purchases Bargain Booze, Wine Rack, Select Convenience and WS Retail from Conviviality for £7.5m. One analyst describes the knock-down price as represents the “deal of the century”.